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Best picture book of the year: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright”

September 21st, 2022

What are we reading this week? Let’s take a look…

One of the sweetest picture books ever created, ever, in the history of picture books, showed up in my mailbox: “Brown is Warm, Black is Bright.”

This lovely meditation of a book was written by the gifted and thoughtful Sarah L. Thomson and illustrated by the amazing and talented Keith Mallett.

(Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2022, all ages, but especially ages 4-8, $18.99. Websites: Sarah L. Thomson and Keith Mallett)

A little girl and her father rake leaves, she plays with her puppy, splashes in puddles and lets her imagination run wild. The book follows their day, into the night. It’s autumn, it’s beautiful, it’s wistful and dreamy. So much is conveyed through the poetic words and gorgeous art of this sweet, peaceful, and long-overdue book. Go buy some copies.

Thank you. That’s all for today. Happy equinox and enjoy your fall.

WM

Thursday Book Review for me and you!

August 4th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Lemonade Stand, Sissy & Me,” circa 1970, photo by Dad

When the kids “put on a show,” sometimes that means that the bossiest one drapes herself in all the tutus and beads, pushes to the front, and won’t let anyone else sing. Yes, I’m thinking of a friend from childhood. She wasn’t so fun. Other people know how to sing, too, aight? This is why “Everyone Belongs” is such a change of pace and a delight. The new children’s book, which will be released this week, was written by Heather Avis and illustrated by Sarah Mensinga (Cover design by Annalisa Sheldahl; Waterbrook, 2022, $12.99). (Check the book credits in the back for Mensinga’s illustrations for the author/illustrator bios. Two of the author’s three daughters are included.)

When sisters Macy and Tru put on a show, they find a way to include everyone, which means fun for the entire neighborhood. Sweet story, beautiful illustrations. It’s a “teaching moment” book, but it’s more than just that.

“The Katha Chest,” written by Radhiah Chowdhury and illustrated by Lavanya Naidu, is an exquisite book about beautiful, worn-out saris that are repurposed into light quilts, and the little girl, Asiya, who adores them. (Salaam Reads, 2022, for ages 4-8/or for all ages, $17.99.)

When “Nana the Great Comes to Visit,” you know it will be entertaining. (Written by Lisa Tawn Bergren, illustrated by David Hohn; Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2022, $12.99.) Nana rocks (even though Mom says that she’s a little naughty, “in the best sort of way,” and “That’s why God gave us grandparents.”) Is it a huge mess? Or is Nana a fort-building genius? She won’t change diapers, but she will paint your nails with 20 different bottles of polish.

Thank God for grandparents.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Monday Book Reviews: “The Little Bear” and others

July 18th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

(Toddler me, mama, and my bald-headed sister, family photos)

 

“The Little Bear,” by Nicola Killen (A Paula Wiseman Book/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2022, $16.99). Killen is a gifted artist who studied at Cambridge School of Art. Her Little Animal Friend series has been the sweetest, including the latest title. (BookPage, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and others have taken note.) Kids will like the soothing color scheme of navy blue and muted colors, and they’ll love the little “window” cut-outs that lead to the next page. Ollie is nervous the night before school, so she gets her bear backpack ready and has one more “practice lesson” before she turns in. She hears a “twit twoooo!” and is soon enchanted by an owl.

Great adventure story, and practical, too. 

“the world’s longest licorice rope,” by Matt Meyers (Random House Studio, 2022, $17.99). This one hits the shelves in a week, but is available for pre-order. Ben earns and finds a bunch of nickels, and it turns out that’s the easy part. What should he spend them on? Options include, but are not limited to: locally-sourced mud pies, snow/water cones, old Santa candy and so much more. Then he finds a little girl selling, yes, “the world’s longest licorice rope,” for one mere nickel.

“‘Just how long is it?’ Ben asked.

“‘How long is the world?’ a girl said.”

Is there an adventure? Yes.

Are there lions and carrots? Yes.

Are the illustrations cool and engaging, and will the kids like the book? Yes, yes and yes.

“The Baby-Changing Station,” written by Rhett Miller, illustrated by Dan Santat (Megan Tingley Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2022, $17.99). Glad to see another sibling rivalry book arrive. Forewarned is forearmed, as they say. And this one? Is also a rhyming book. So there you go. Does James like his little brother Joe? Not so much. In his words:

“Sure would be sweet/If I had a receipt/But all I’ve got’s this little terror. 

What if I say/to the post office, ‘Hey! You delivered this package in error.'”

Dan Santat is well-known for creating “The Adventures of Beekle” and many other books. These illustrations do not disappoint. The expressions on the characters’ faces are kinda the best.

Rhett Miller, as some of you know, is the frontman for the band the Old 97’s. The story he’s concocted is one of the kookiest children’s books I’ve come across in awhile. The kids are going to be delighted, I believe.

All for now/more tomorrow/bon appetit, babies!

WM

“Spellbound!” and other new releases

July 17th, 2022

Summer 2021 + throwbacks

“Long Hot Summer” (family photo)

Well, hey. How about some fantabulous books?

“Spellbound” (Union Square Kids, 2022, ages little kids and up, 32 pages, $17.99), written by Jess Townes, illustrated by Jennifer Harney. Let’s talk about sibling rivalry, shall we? It’s real, and it can hurt. Especially when the baby gets you, the big kid, into trouble, and there’s not a dang thing you can do about it. Or when you’re having feelings you don’t quite know what to do with.

Here’s a sweet, funny take on the subject. Willow? Willow is magical and happy until lil baby Rowan comes along. He enchants everyone he meets. Except Willow. She’s on to him. Is he a real wizard? Is Willow an actual witch? Let’s find out. The littles will like this one, and so will their parents. Cool story, and beautiful retro drawings. (Maybe introduce the book the last trimester, before the little nugget comes home to stay.)

Another sweet book with a family theme is “A Gift for Nana,” by one of my favorite author-illustrators, Lane Smith (“It’a a Book,” “It’s a Little Book,” and his titles with the irrepressible Jon Scieszka). (Random House Studio, New York, 2022, design by Molly Leach, $18.99.) Children, of course, love books where the heroes get to do things kids usually don’t — float around the ocean in a giant peach, live for awhile in a museum, do all kinds of cool magic with their friends. In “A Gift for Nana,” a little rabbit gets to travel around through the forest, across the water, and near a volcano, in search of the perfect gift for his grandmother. A crow gives him directions and off he goes on this big quest. Great story and art.

Ready for a vacation? How about a “Vampire Vacation”? (Written by Laura Lavoie, with art by Micah Player; Viking, an Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York; 2022; $17.99.) Now, if you were a vampire, would you rather go back to Transylvania? Again? No. You’d rather go to the beach, swim and hang out (no pun intended) with your friends. So Fang, an enterprising young vampire, makes his case.

“Nonsense,” said Papa, “It will be fun! We’ll tour Dracula’s castle, visit the House of No Mirrors, dine at a five-star blood bank…”

But Fang has some another plan up his cape… sleeve… and he hopes it will work. Delightful art, great details, and hilarious story. Sometimes families… even vampire families… need to accommodate each other.

Bon appetit, baby vampires! Happy summer, happy reading.

WM

Friday, Friday: This Week’s Young Adult Books

September 17th, 2021

Hello, readers! Two new ones from the Wingfeather Saga:

“Pembrick’s Creaturepedia, Skreean Edition,” by Ollister B. Pembrick, translated from the original by Andrew Peterson, illustrated by O.B.P., with assistance from Aedan Peterson, “Master of Sketchery,” tra la la! (WaterBrook, 2014/2021, 122 pages, $13.99.) Cool illustrations, the text is fun, and the cover? So pretty. (Books that are precious and just feel good to read.) Nice pairing with “Wingfeather Tales: Seven Thrilling Stories from the World of Aerwiar” (Andrew Peterson, editor, WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2016/2021, 384 pages, $13.99).

Love, love, love graphic novels, and here’s a good one: “The Cardboard Kingdom #2: Roar of the Beast,” by Chad Sell. (Random House Children’s Books, 2021, ages 9-12, 288 pages, $12.99.)

Last but not least… “Good Dog: 4 Books in 1!” (Written by Cam Higgins, illustrated by Ariel Landy; “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” “Raised in a Barn,” “Herd You Loud and Clear” and “Fireworks Night”; Little Simon/Simon & Schuster; 2021; 491 awesome, fun-filled pages.) Great title for kids who are fans of dogs and other critters, farms and fun.

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Wednesday Book Review: “What Are… ?” The WhoHQ series

September 15th, 2021

drippy rose

(Photo by Steven Pings Rawley; use with permission only)

The WhoHQ book series has been popular since the titles first started rolling off the presses. (WhoHQ, Who? What? Where? Your Headquarters for History; Penguin Workshop; $5.99 per title.) 

With 250 titles, and more on the way, it’s a comprehensive series, with titles about historical events from earthquakes to war, science, celebrities, historical figures… the list goes on and on with something for everyone. They’re aimed at ages 8-12, but kids who are younger and older enjoy the series, too. I can see the appeal — the covers are inviting and bright; the stories are well-written, and the books include pages and pages of photos, fact boxes, lots of art, timelines and bibliographies for readers who are looking for more.

They basically implement a variety of different techniques to help students learn. Hear, hear! We should all be so creative. Lol.

Here are four recent titles and all are great additions to the collection. If you’re looking for resources on how to use the series, a good place to start is with Dr. Loftin’s Learning Emporium. 

“What Are the Paralympics Games?”

“What Are the Summer Olympics?”

“Who Was Jesse Owens?”

“Who Was Kobe Bryant?”

Enjoy! Here’s to cool autumn days, warm blankets, hot soup and tea, and lots of books.

WM

Thursday Book Review: Eric Carle’s “You’re My Little Baby” and Other Assorted Titles

June 3rd, 2021

2021

(“Best Blue Heeler,” 2021 photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

Kid books — new and old favorites ahead for review, get ready. There may be a holiday book included that I’m sneaking in because I overlooked it a few months ago. OK, people. If you’re not doing this already, do like my smart grandmothers — buy those birthday, holiday, wedding and baby gifts year round. (The key is to remember where you stashed them, otherwise, alas…)

So I’m not even going to feel guilty that I forgot to review “The Wheels on the Bus At Christmas” (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 2020, illustrated by Sarah Kieley, $10.99). It’s not too early/late to buy a copy, aight?

“Let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve, Christmas Eve/ let’s ride the bus on Christmas Eve/ who will we find inside?”

Sweet little kids is who! Plus reindeer, presents, singing cookies, a snowman and lots of other fun. Darling singalong with bright pops of color. The front cover opens with cut-outs of the windows on the bus… and that looks like Santa driving?

As long as we’re on the subject of winter… here’s another overlooked (whoops) book.  “Small Walt Spots Dot,” written by Elizabeth Verdick, with pictures by Marc Rosenthal, pays homage to both Mike Mulligan (Virginia Lee Burton) and our busy friend Curious George. (Did you know that Hans and Margret Rey escaped from the Nazis? They fled Paris on bicycle in 1940, reportedly carrying the manuscript for the first “Curious George.”) I am a sucker for the illustrations and children’s books of the 1930s-1950s. “Small Walt Spots Dot,” with this vintage style, does not disappoint. (Paula Wiseman, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2020, $17.99.)

Gus and his snowplow, Walt, hit the streets, save the snowy day, and find a lost pup along the way. (See? Rhymes rule.) Another one to tuck away for next winter. Or, you may like reading books about snow when the weather is hot and miserable, “Chicken Soup with Rice”-style.

Next up:

Like his millions of other fans, I was saddened to hear of the recent death of Eric Carle. The World of Eric Carle recently published a perfect little board book, “You’re My Little Baby” (Little Simon, 2020, ages 2-4, $7.99). If you haven’t already, now is the time to start collecting Carle books for the kids in your life. Or for yourself. The art is extraordinary, and his work really is for all ages. My favorites include “Animals Animals,” “The Very Busy Spider” (of course), “‘Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,’ Said the Sloth,” and “Dragons Dragons.” You cannot go wrong with any of Carle’s books, these are just my top picks. 

“God Gave Us Prayer” is the latest release in the “God Gave Us” series by author Lisa Tawn Bergren and illustrator David Hohn (Waterbrook Multnomah, 2021, ages 3-8, 56 pages, $14.99). The power of prayer is illustrated through pup and his parents, possum, otter, skunk and other friends, with space for little readers to reflect.

Anna Dewdny’s “Llama Llama” books have been delighting young readers for years. The newest on the shelves is “Llama Llama Meets the Babysitter” (Viking/Penguin Random House, 2021, by Anna Dewdny, Reed Duncan and J.T. Morrow, ages babies and up, $18.99). Llama Llama has never had a sitter before, what will this be like? Good way to prepare the young ones for meeting new caregivers. 

Bon appetit, babies!

WM

Friday Book Review

April 9th, 2021

So many photos ❤️

(“My Best Chickens” photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“What We’ll Build: Plans for Our Together Future,” by Oliver Jeffers (Philomel Books/Penguin Random House, 2020, $19.99). Nice new picture book from Jeffers (“The Day the Crayons Quit,” “How to Catch a Star,” “Lost and Found”) about a father and daughter who are building, literally and figuratively, for the future. Sweet, bright art depicting tools, a house being built, whimsical items, a ship that won’t sink… It’s the best combination of fantasy and reality.

“Let’s build a tunnel to anywhere. Le’s build a road up to the moon.” 

See more from Jeffers at his website.

“Hooray for Helpers! First Responders and More Heroes in Action,” by Mike Austin (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99). Good timing for this picture book, which also includes an interview with a real firefighter, an emergency supplies checklist and instructions for making an emergency contact list. Austin is married to author-illustrator Jing Jing Tsong and they have a sweet dog named Prudence. Look for them at jingandmike.com

“Oscar’s American Dream,” written by Barry Wittenstein and illustrated by Kristen and Kevin Howdeshell, is a historical fiction-style picture book with an “old-timey” feel. (Random House Books, 2020, $17.99.) Soft, muted pastels are used to illustrate the fictional story of Oskar Nowicki, who “arrived at Ellis Island carrying his life in a cardboard suitcase and a skinny roll of money in his coat pocket, a loan from his mother in Poland for a down payment on his dream.” 

He switches the “k” in his name to a “c,” in an effort to fit into his new country; he opens “Oscar’s All-American Barbershop in Manhattan; and gives away free haircuts to his first twenty customers “and lemon drops to all the boys and girls.”

The book traces the storefront’s evolution over the years, from barbershop to women’s clothing store to soup kitchen during the Great Depression and so on through modern times. It’s an interesting slice of American history, and includes info on suffragettes, wartime, the Civil Rights movement, and more. I appreciate the details and warmth of the Ezra Jack Keats-style paper and paint art.  

Wittenstein’s website is onedogwoof.com; and you’ll find the Howdeshells at thebraveunion.com.

Bon appetit, babies! Have a great weekend.

WM

 

  

 

 

Sunday Book Review: “The Little Kitten,” “A Story for Small Bear,” “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” “The War with Grandpa” & “Good Morning Zoom”

October 18th, 2020

It’s nearly Halloween, y’all, and just in time, here comes “The Little Kitten,” by Nicola Killen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2020, $16.99). Little Ollie and her kitten Pumpkin find a lost kitten, and what will they do? Where will they go? Nice illustrations, with a black, orange, white and gray color scheme.

“A Story for Small Bear” is a sweet and lovey picture book, written by Alice B. McGinty (“The Sea Knows,” “The Girl Who Named Pluto,” and many others) illustrated by Richard Jones (whose other work includes “Whale in a Fishbowl”) (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). It’s hard to believe that so much love and heart can leap out of the pages like they do with this book, about mama bear trying to get her baby bear prepared for a winter rest. The story is dear, the illustrations are beautiful. Try not to get tears in your eyes. Good luck. I think the kids will adore this one for a bedtime story.

Bad timing, alas, for “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” a promotional book by Crayola, starring their colors Blue Violet, Macaroni and Cheese, Scarlet and Jungle Green. It’s a sweet little board book, but made me lonely. Back to school time only it’s not. Will be good, though, for reminding kids that they will, someday, go back to school, and this is what classrooms, buses and school days look like. (Crayola, Simon & Schuster, 2020, for the littles, $6.99.)

I love autumn, but this autumn is kinda breaking all of our hearts. We can get through it together, okay? OK.

Really fun oldie but goodie with Robert Kimmel Smith’s “The War with Grandpa” (Yearling Humor, 1984, ages 8-12, 140 pages, $6.99). Why the re-release? It’s now a moving picture, yep, starring… you know them, you love them, or you might not love them, what do I know? … Robert De Niro, Uma! Thurman, Christopher Walker, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin… sure. Sounds good already. (If you had told me that Robert “Travis Bickle” DeNiro was eventually going to end up cast as a beloved dad and grandpa, I probably would have said, “Raging Bull, seriously?” But he’s a complex man, De Niro. We know this already.)

Kimmel is probably best known for his book “Chocolate Fever.” (“The War with Grandma” is coming out next summer.)

Last book for today… “Good Morning Zoom,” (modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”) which calls itself “a parody,” even though it’s pretty much reality, has words by Lindsay Rechler and pictures by June Park.

Two words: Too soon.

West Coast on fire

September 13th, 2020

9/12/2020

Is the world on fire where you are? It’s on fire here in Oregon. Our little zone seems to be okay, for now, but that could change. The truck is packed, our quick bags are ready to go.

Keep us in your prayers.

I’m checking this Air Quality site compulsively. 

In my town, we’ve been hovering between “Unhealthy” and “Hazardous.” (I checked one last time before I fell asleep last night — Salem, Ore., just north of us, was off the charts, and so was Portland, Ore.) The West coast currently has the worst air quality *on the planet.* We had to be best at something, I guess.

Our air quality inside the house is okay for now, smokewise, but it was very smoky earlier in the week. And I have asthma. So there you have it. I have two inhalers next to me, and a big bottle of water.

Millions of acres lost, all along the West Coast, along with homes. The death toll is climbing. My good thoughts, prayers and anything else I’ve got, going out to the families and loved ones who have been lost or are struggling now. And there’s the Pandemic. And the civil unrest. It’s been six months today since my school district shut down and I was furloughed. I’m back to work now. Many, many thousands and millions of others have it worse than my family and friends do, but all of this is taking its toll, in small ways and large, on every single one of us. Peace and healing and rain are needed, stat.

My sister sent me this list that she got from her neighborhood Facebook group. We don’t have an air purifier and needed something. It cuts the smoke, purifies the air, makes you relax. I’m just saying, it’s working. The air is so dry and horrible, my asthma has been rough, and this has helped. Be safe, love you all.

WM

Respiratory Hack- Herbal Crock Pot Steamer

Plants often used to help with breathing/lungs include:

  • Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Juniper Juniperus
  • Cedar Thuja occidentalis
  • Sage Salvia
  • Mugwort/Sagebrush Artemisia
  • Bee Balm Monarda
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Eucalyptus

My sis and I are using the handy-dandy Crockpots, but you could just as easily use a big pot of (uncovered) water on the stove. Bring to boil and then simmer, uncovered. Turn it off before you go to bed, cover it, then turn it back on again in the morning. Will be good for a couple of three days. Just keep adding more herbs, citrus and oils. I added:

Peppermint tea bags

Tea with lemon balm/chamomile

Lemon slices

And half a bag of awesome herbs from Sweet Mountaintop Farm and my dear Kate.

Any kinds of herbs are going to be nice, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, whatever’s on hand. Or get the store to deliver some stuff.

Pray for rain pray for rain for everywhere in the world that needs it.

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